The Albany, Deptford – until 31 December 2021
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale is given a modern environmental twist in Wrongsemble’s festive production. Lumi (Tilly Smith) has asked lots of questions from a very young age but as she grows older and is more aware of the world, she has questions about global warming and pollution, and decides to be an activist. The one question she really wants answered is why hasn’t it snowed? So, she writes letter after letter to the Snow Queen who controls the weather. Fed up with waiting for a reply, Lumi goes on a quest to the North to find the Snow Queen and get the answers she needs.
On her journey, Lumi meets Horton the Tortoise, a wasteful hoarder, Flash the Polar Bear, whose high-energy, high-power lifestyle is melting the ice cap around his bachelor pad, and Oops the delivery elf, whose working conditions are awful as consumers demand instant service. They help her on her way to the Snow Queen’s ice place, where Lumi can finally ask for snow.
Writer and director Elvi Piper tackles important environmental issues with a light touch that will engage and excite school age children. The repeated message that small changes can make the biggest difference is one they will have encountered at school. In Lumi, Piper has created a proactive character that children can relate to and aspire to be, reminding the audience that sometimes the youngest voices will speak the loudest truths. There are catchy songs and simple choreography that was copied by lots of energetic audience members, and just enough slapstick and physical humour to keep very young children interested and laughing. There are lots of jokes for the adults in the audience too – most delivered with icy disdain by the Snow Queen (Richard Priestley). Looking down from an ice tower lit by a huge crescent moon, Priestley is hilarious as the drag queen diva, preening, pouting and punning as well as providing accompaniment to the songs. The Snow Queen’s pronouns, they/their, are used in song lyrics and dialogue and accepted without question by the young audience. Tilly Smith is sweetly convincing playing a young girl, never becoming a cheesy caricature and winning over the audience within minutes. Thomas Cotran plays multiple characters with lots of energy – making the biggest impact with Flash the polar bear in need of a digital detox – each wiggle of his hips had the audience in stitches.
The production lives up to its message of sustainability, with impressive set design by Antony Jones, and manages to be educational without losing its strong narrative. One of the more thoughtful, message-orientated productions around this year, The Snow Queen is joyful entertainment with all the Christmas fun and frolics you need for a family treat.